The Taj Mahal in Agra, North India really is the Rolls Royce of buildings and India’s greatest pin-up for tourism. Now being a skeptical Brit, I couldn’t see what could be so fabulous about a big slab of marble. But as the saying goes…. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” so while in the Northern India we decided to pay a visit. So, was it all it’s cracked up to be? Well… I begrudgingly admit I have been completely converted! I absolutely fell in love with the Taj, and in this article, I am hoping that I can show you why you must visit the Taj Mahal at least once in your life.
When to Visit the Taj Mahal?
Believe it or not, the height of the British summer period is India’s low-season for tourists due to the monsoons. We went at the end of July and for India it was quiet. Although you’ll still see people every which-way you turn, compared to being packed into a hoard of tourists of all nationalities, this is greatly preferable. So I would definitely advise this time to take a visit.
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How Long to Make Your Stay?
The Taj Mahal is the main attraction in Agra and most tourism is geared towards it. Apart from the Taj Mahal, the ‘Baby-Taj’ or by its proper name; the Mausoleum of Itmad-ud-Daulah is worth a visit too if you have more time. But my advice, especially if you’re on a military regimented time scale like we were, is you only need two days. Check out the official website of Agra for more info on the ‘Baby Taj’.
Getting there to Visit the Taj Mahal
Agra is part of the Golden Triangle alongside two other gems of the North; Delhi and Jaipur. To get there, it’s better to fly in to Delhi as it is incredibly well connected to the rest of the Golden Triangle. From there, take a train directly to Agra.
Personally, I advise getting at least a second class with AC, especially if you just arrive India and are yet to acclimatise to the sticky heat! It’s better to book your train tickets in advance as the station can be incredibly busy and chaotic, especially for a new-comer. We used this site to book trains and this worked well for us.
The train journey is a long one (Almost 4 hours!!), so make sure you stock up on bottled water and snacks and settle down on the bunks for a nap. If you’re a white traveller, don’t be too disconcerted when you find a number of Indians staring at you… To them you’re quite the tourist attraction! Another top tip… Keep some awareness of where you are as there doesn’t appear to be anyone announcing this while on the train, which can be a little hair-raising. For us, we befriended a local who gave us a nudge when we needed to get off.
Where to Stay?
There are an abundance of hotels in Agra ,so you’re spoilt for choices. My advice though would be to find one with a view of the Taj Mahal as it’s spectacular at sunset and they often have terraces where you can eat to take in the breathtaking view. Many of the hotels are also within walking distance of the Taj Pick-up point too. The better the view of the Taj, the more you pay. But it’s worth it in my opinion.
The View from our hotel…
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A Day at the Taj, What to Expect….
So, I found this quite a bizarre process as you can’t get to the Taj Mahal directly. You have to go to the ticket office which has a number of extended golf buggies which then drive you to the Taj itself. The ticket costs 1000 rupees (about £10) and includes a bottle of water, a souvenir ticket (excellent for scrapbookers like myself) and some shoe covers (which you need to keep close to hand as they are very strict about you dirtying the white marble of the Taj) Here’s the official Taj Mahal Website for additional info.
When the buggy drops you off, you need to queue up for the mandatory bag check and then this opens out into a number of souvenir shops where there are numerous loitering tour guides ready to pounce on unsuspecting tourists. Instead of rejecting them, I actually recommend agreeing to be guided around. Our guide became incredibly useful for taking photos for the two of us. We just kept thrusting cameras and phones at him and in the end, he got very “arty” with some of his shots and began ordering us into different poses … Though I feel he may have got the wrong idea of the relationship dynamic between me and my female friend who are most definitely NOT romantically involved… But we did see the funny side.
Our guide also gave us some really interesting information about the history of the Taj Mahal which added to the experience in general. However, don’t be ripped off, we paid 400 rupees for our guide (equivalent of about £4) which is a perfectly acceptable price. Another little warning, they often have links to shops and photographers around the Taj that they try and get you to use. By all means go along with this if you want to, but some can get rather pushy.
Take your time wandering around the Taj Mahal and appreciate the architecture, history and fantasy behind it. The gardens and matching symmetrical mosques (ladies, take a head scarf to cover your heads) are breath-taking in their own right. Once again, remember to get your guide to take lots of photos as they make great mementos for your trip….. After all, have you even been to India if you haven’t got a picture with the Taj Mahal?!
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Finish off the triangle and take in the delights of Jaipur. Fondly known as the Pink City, it’s well worth the journey. Jaipur offers a lot to see and do and is one of the most spectacular tourist cities in the North of India.
These photos were taken by and copyright to my travelling partner in crime Beth Dixon, as she had the better camera!
Watch the National Geographic Video and find out about Taj’s history and secret.
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About the Traveler
I’m Jess, a baby vet at Liverpool University and lover of all creatures, no matter how weird or wonderful! I have a passion for adventure and plan to use my degree and skill set (which I am still working on honing!) to travel the world, do some good and see and do as much as possible!
Visit my blog Travels of a Baby-Vet to find out more. I’d love you to share your experiences and give feedback on my posts. I love a good chat!
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